FOOTBALL: Let The Workouts Begin

FAYETTEVILLE - Former Arkansas cornerback Michael Grant has something to prove, which means he's no different than the hundreds of other players who have been invited to participate in this week's NFL Scouting Combine.

For starters, Grant knows he can run a 40-yard dash faster than what some NFL scouts think he's capable of doing. After all, he's a former record-breaking sprinter at Arkansas.

At the same time, Grant doesn't want to be labeled as another "track guy," who can run fast in one direction but can't keep up when defending a wide receiver.

"I think that a lot of people think that I might just be a track guy. I can run the straight line," Grant said earlier this week while taking a break from training in New Jersey. "But I know for a fact I'm a better athlete than what people think that I am."

The next few days will be an opportunity for Grant and several of his former Arkansas teammates to impress scouts and hopefully improve their status in April's NFL Draft.

Eight former Razorbacks have been invited to Indianapolis, Ind., to participate in the combine, which amounts to a grueling job interview for players hoping to get drafted.

The combine kicks off today and ends Tuesday.

During that time, players will be weighed and measured. They'll run the 40-yard dash and bench press 225 pounds as many times as possible. And they'll have every aspect of their lives questioned and every flaw in their game scrutinized.

"A lot of the scouts, they had me down for like a 4.5 or 4.6(-second) 40," Grant said, referring to his time in the 40-yard dash. "I know I can go a lot faster than that, so I hope to show them that I can run a little bit better than what they think I can."

Some of the former Razorbacks have more to prove at the combine than others.

Former Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden is a two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up, and he's almost assured of being a top 5 draft pick regardless of what he does this week in Indianapolis.

Ian Greengross, McFadden's agent, said Tuesday that he's not sure exactly which drills his client will take part in at the combine and which ones he'll hold off doing until Arkansas' pro day next month. "No final decision has been made," Greengross said.

It's not uncommon for top prospects like McFadden to decide not to run the 40-yard dash at the combine. It shouldn't make much of a difference, though.

ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has McFadden as the highest-rated player available in the draft, and there is a chance he could be among the first three players selected. His performance at the combine shouldn't affect his stock much either way.

But there will no doubt be plenty of eyes on Arkansas' all-time leading rusher when he arrives at the RCA Dome for his combine workout.

"I don't feel like I've reached my full potential of playing football," McFadden told reporters in Dallas last week. "I feel like you can always get better."

For former Arkansas players like running back Felix Jones, fullback Peyton Hillis and defensive tackle Marcus Harrison, the combine is an opportunity for them to prove they're worthy of being an early round pick.

Jones has been training with McFadden and former Olympic gold-medal sprinter Michael Johnson in Dallas in preparation for the combine.

That's how important a good or bad workout in Indianapolis can be. It could make the difference between Jones being a mid-to-late first-round pick or slipping into the second round.

Meanwhile, former Arkansas offensive guard Robert Felton, wide receiver Marcus Monk and cornerbacks Matterral Richardson and Grant are hoping to show NFL team they deserve to be drafted.

Grant said he's heard he could be selected anywhere from the second round to the fifth round. But his goal for this week is to simply make an impression on scouts.

"In order for me to get them to look at the (game) film (of me), I have to do something to open their eyes," Grant said. "If I do real good at the combine, it'll open their eyes and go, 'Oh, we've got to look at more film on this guy.'"

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